Transportation improvements lead to safer intersections

Roadwork projects completed through the Cape Cod Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) are significant regional investments. Many of us drive through improved intersections and use crosswalks and bicycle lanes – but are these improvements translating into safer roads?

A recent Cape Cod Commission study identified the top crash locations in Barnstable County. Nine of the top ten locations listed below are slated for improvement, with several TIP-funded projects currently underway.

Looking at past TIP-funded projects, Cape Cod Commission staff performed a “before and after” comparison at six intersections that were improved between 2011 and 2016. The work performed was intended to improve safety at several existing high-crash locations.

Staff reviewed the number and severity of crashes, along with other crash characteristics, at the following locations:

  • Route 6A/Route 28/Canal Road, Orleans
  • Route 28 at Lumbert Mill Road, Barnstable
  • Route 28 at Jones Road/Worcester Court, Falmouth
  • Route 28 at Davisville Road/Old Meetinghouse Road, Falmouth
  • Cotuit Road/Harlow Road/South Sandwich Road, Sandwich
  • Route 130 at Route 6 Eastbound Ramps, Sandwich

These locations represent an array of intersection improvements throughout the Cape, providing an overview of the safety benefits that can be expected with various types of infrastructure investments.

Overall, the results are promising. Of those reviewed, nearly all saw a decline in both the overall number of crashes within the parameters of the initial analysis and a decline in the number of serious injuries. Even the location that did not see a decrease in the overall number of crashes saw a decline in more serious crashes, resulting in fewer injuries.

A project in Sandwich is one of the best examples of safety improvement. The intersection of Cotuit Road at Harlow Road/South Sandwich Road was previously a two-way intersection, with stop signs controlling traffic on Harlow Road and Sandwich Road and traffic running freely with no stop on Cotuit Road. The intersection’s layout and the skew of the roadways created visibility challenges. Studies identified a roundabout as a preferred alternative that would significantly improve safety at this location. The project was advanced as part of the 2011 Cape Cod Transportation Improvement Program.

A comparison of data before and after the intervention at the Sandwich Cotuit Road roundabout showed improvement. Twenty-seven crashes were reported between 2005 and 2008, five resulting in injuries. Following the completion of the new roundabout in 2014, reports of crashes fell. Data collected between 2015 and 2018 showed just six crashes, none resulting in injury.

Due to their design and layout, roundabouts require vehicles to navigate the intersection at a slower speed, reducing the likelihood of injury-related crashes and improving non-motorist safety. This intersection is a prime example of the benefits associated with a roundabout.

These positive outcomes show that targeted interventions improve safety at high-crash locations. While crashes may not be eliminated entirely, it is hopeful that the number and severity of crashes will be significantly reduced in alignment with a Vision Zero strategy that envisions no serious injuries or fatalities.

Keeping Cape Cod’s roadways safe for proper use by pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles is a critical aspect of overall public safety. The Cape Cod Commission’s Transportation Department works to identify areas of safety concern and develop data-driven solutions to lower both the occurrence and the severity of vehicle crashes. The Cape Cod Crash Dashboard provides an opportunity to visualize Cape Cod’s vehicle crashes and their related statistics from 2018-2020.